Tor.com Novellas on Discount!

The fine folks at Tor.com have placed a number of novellas on discount, dropping the ebook price from $2.99 to just $.99. This includes The Shootout Solution (Genrenauts Episode 1), so if you have a friend who might be interested in Genrenauts, now is a great time for them to try it out.

Handy buy links included below.

 

The Shootout Solution
Michael R. Underwood

The Shootout Solution

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

Sunset Mantle
Alter S. Reiss
Sunset Mantle

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

The Last Witness
K.J. Parker

The Last Witness

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

Of Sorrow and Such
Angela Slatter

Of Sorrow and Such

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

Domnall and the Borrowed Child
Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

Domnall and the Borrowed Child

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

Patchwerk
David Tallerman

Patchwerk

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

Pieces of Hate
Tim Lebbon

Pieces of HateAmazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

The Drowning Eyes
Emily Foster

The Drowning Eyes

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

The Emperor’s Railroad
Guy Haley

The Emperor's Railroad

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

Award Eligibility Post – 2015

So – awards and award eligibility – some people hate eligibility posts, but this is my blog, so they can deal. 🙂

Here’s what I did in 2015, and how it would qualify in award categories – Hugo, Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy Award, etc.

Best (Fantasy) Novel

Hexomancy cover

Hexomancy

The fourth story (third novel) in the Ree Reyes urban fantasy series, where fandom and love of SF/F is its own magic system. This is the novel I’m proudest of so far – I think it represents a leveling up across several craft elements, including capping off the first major story arc for the series.

 

Best Novella

The Shootout Solution cover

The Shootout Solution

Episode one of the Genrenauts series – about a group that travels to genre-informed dimensions to find and fix broken stories in order to protect their version of Earth. This kicks off the series which I hope to be writing for the next few years – it’s fun, its wacky, and it delivers both adventure and analysis of why and how we tell stories.

 

Fancast

skiffyandfanty4_banner_web

Skiffy & Fanty

 

SpeculateBanner9

Speculate!

In 2015, I joined the cast of Speculate! while continuing to work with the Skiffy and Fanty Show, which was nominated for Best Fancast in 2014. Both are fantastic shows, and, in my opinion, fill different but important niches in the SF/F podcasting community.

 

Special Award – Best Professional (World Fantasy)

Michael R. Underwood – For work at Angry Robot

In my experience, Best Professional almost always goes to a Publisher or Editor, but there’s nothing that says that a Sales/Marketing Manager couldn’t be nominated and win. I worked closely on supporting every one of Angry Robot’s 2015 releases, including two Phillip K. Dick Award nominees, the Campbell Award winner, and more. A long shot, but worth mentioning, since this is my blog.

 

Fan Writer

Most of my non-fiction in 2015 was more professional than fannish, but I leave it to you, the voter, to decide what you like. Here are some of the best of the best from me in 2015:

#TinyComicsReviews

Over lunch, I tweeted out a handful of short comics reviews from recent books I’ve read. Here’s a Storify of those reviews, and some links below to help find the books:

 

Go forth and read!
What comics are you all enjoying lately! Share some sequential winning in the comments.

Hexomancy Review Roundup

Hexomancy is here, but several folks have already read it, thanks to the wonders of NetGalley. And lucky for me, they seem to be loving the book, which makes my geeky heart soar. It means a lot to me that people are still reading and reviewing the series four books in, since it’s often very hard to get reviews of books after the first in the series.

Hexomancy cover

Joe’s Geek Fest says:

Michael Underwood scores full points for a perfect hit with Hexomancy, drawing (at least the first cycle) of the Ree Reyes series (which include Geekomancy and Celebromancy along with the novella, Attack the Geek) to a full-on fun while satisfying ending. You know those episode-ending scenes around the table of Serenity from Firefly? There is a sense of camaraderie, coming home with people and life seeming to fit (even with chaos around the corner). That’s what Hexomancy is for me.

Brainfluff gives some love to the series’ lead:

Ree is an engaging, likeable heroine, with an interesting backstory. She is a ‘glass half full’ lass, rather than the tortured, angsty type, so the overall tone is fairly upbeat despite the various disasters and mayhem that befalls them. I enjoyed her positive energetic outlook and the buzz of the bar, Grognard’s, where she works as a waitress is effectively captured. That said, it isn’t all a bundle of laughs. Underwood handles the building threat well, and the action scenes whip through with plenty of tension – more so, because he isn’t afraid of offing significant characters. There was also a couple of pleasing story twists I didn’t see coming.

James at Fragile Muse loves the fun and calls out one of the primary influences of the series:

First and foremost, these books are FUN! Michael Underwood wears his geek cred on his sleeve, much like Ernest Cline who wrote Ready Player One and Armada. However, instead of just dropping geek references, he weaves our shared love of all these properties, characters and culture into the fabric of the engine which drives Ree’s powers.

Brad K. Horner says:

There’s nothing quite like this series. The rules are well defined, the characters are interesting, and the utter truckload of geeky nostalgia plows through me like the power of the dark side. Or is that Hexomancy? Hmm.

And the fine folks at Talk Supe say they Loved It:

Hexomancy was a satisfying and exciting conclusion to the first arc of Ree Reyes. There are new things that come up, when a door closes, another one opens…I’m really looking forward to reading what’s next for our adorable heroine.

 

In addition to squeeing over reviews, I’ve been making the promotional rounds to support Hexomancy. Here’s the first batch of fun:

I was the first-ever guest interviewed on Last Chance Salon Podcast (how cool!), talking about my writing journey, the Ree Reyes books, Force Friday, and more.

Over at Literary Escapism, I reflect on changes in the world of geekdom and pop culture since Geekomancy was released in the summer of 2012.

And if you’re on the fence about the books or your memory is foggy about what’s happened before Hexomancy, I gave an introduction and summary of the series at XOXO After Dark.

 

If you’re planning to buy Hexomancy and haven’t done so already, please consider picking it up this week. First week sales are an important indicator to a book’s publisher, and it helps drive momentum and discovery. Also, if you’ve already read the book, please consider leaving a review on the ebook retailers (as many as you care to cross-post to), as those also drive discovery.

And if you’ve done all of the above (my heroes!) and are hungry for more, don’t fret! Genrenauts: The Shootout Solution is only 2 months and 2 days away, and is specifically designed to be fun for Ree Reyes readers while also being totally their own thing.

HEXOMANCY on NetGalley

Hello, all!

For the reviewers among you, I’m very excited to share the news that HEXOMANCY is now live on NetGalley, ready for your requests and reading.

Hexomancy cover

I’m very proud of this novel, as it brings together a lot of threads from the three previous Ree Reyes stories, and is the conclusion of the first major arc for the series.

Go forth and happy reading!

The Many Sides of Bundling

Earlier this week, Tor announced that it had partnered with BitLit to offer discounted ebook editions to readers who already own print editions ($2.99 per book).

Books

Angry Robot has had a bundling promotion running for some time, offering free ebooks to customers who buy the physical from one of several bookstore partners, or at conventions.

Bundling has been an on-again, off-again hot-button topic in the publishing world, as readers lobby for getting the ebook edition for free with their physical purchase. A frequent argument I see is that if a reader pays for a book, they feel like they should be able to consume that book in whatever format they want – they’ve bought the content, so format shouldn’t matter.

The production realities in publishing aren’t quite that simple. The final steps in book production diverge between print and ebook – so the  work-hours that make an ebook are different work-hours, with different skills and programs needed, than the work-hours that produce a finished physical book.

 

Don’t get me wrong – I think print + ebook bundling should be universally available. TV and Film companies have already figured this out – in the US at least, consumers can by a DVD, DVD + BluRay, or DVD + BluRay + Digital Download. Sometimes there’s even a 3D BluRay in there. But the different formats are available together. And sometimes the programs involved in the digital download even work (and sometimes they don’t – I’m looking at you Ultraviolet).

To sell a bundled print + ebook edition, here’s what publishers have to do:

1) Partner with BitLit or similar companies, selling companion ebooks at a discounted price to verified print owners (who mark up their physical book to claim the ebook).

2) Create a separate edition (with a separate ISBN) for bundling. That bundling edition would likely cost $1-$5 more than the normal physical edition, just as the DVD + BluRay + Digital Download edition of a film/TV show costs ~$5 more than the DVD + BluRay edition (though digital films/TV shows tend to cost more than individual ebooks). This probably means creating a series of download codes for every book, printing a pull-off-sticker on the inside cover or the like. Printing download codes in plain sight in or on the cover would be incredibly rife for abuse, so some precautions are expected. Marvel comics does this as the default for some comics, offering a free digital download.

2a) As above, but offer universal bundling for no additional cost. That has its own difficulties, as expressed below in Show Me The Money.

3) Publishers broker deals such that every print edition retailer creates a partnership with ebook retailers to enable bundling up-sales at point of sale/checkout. Buy a paperback book, automatically get prompted to buy the ebook at a discounted rate. Amazon has something like this with MatchBook, though only a few publishers have signed on for the program.

 

 

Show Me The Money

Here’s the big question, the one I don’t see asked as often.Who gets paid, and how much?

How does bundling impact how authors are paid?

For this, I’m going to get very hands-on with #s and $. There will even be charts. You have been warned.

Royalties, the amount per sale that writers are paid (against advance or directly) is determined by the specific contract with the publisher. In self-publishing, the terms are not royalties, but instead the creator’s share (as the author-publisher).

But if a physical edition AND ebook edition are being sold at once, how is the royalty calculated? If the ebook is a free add-on, then the author only gets the paperback royalty despite that when looked at from the current paradigm, the book is being sold twice, once in each format.

Part of the trick here is that physical royalties are calculated differently than ebooks. In most contracts, print royalties are calculated off of list price (aka the published price on the cover), 6-8% for Mass Market, 8-10% for Trade Paperback, and ~12% for HC. These rates vary by contract.

Ebook royalties, however, are calculated on net sales, the publisher share of the list price. That’s usually 70% of list price in agency agreements, and usually 50% in Wholesale agreements.

This means that in many cases, authors can get more $ proportionally and in real $s.

Let’s do some comparisons:

For each format, I’ve market the highest royalty for the author in Bold, the 2nd best in Italics, and the third is left in plain text.

Paperback Price ($) Royalty ($) 8% Ebook price ($) Royalty ($) – Agency 70% Royalty ($) – Wholesale 50%
Mass Market (8% Print royalty) 7.99 0.64 6.99 1.22 0.87
Trade Paperback (10% Print Royalty 14.99 1.49 9.99 1.75 1.29
Hardcover (12% Print Royalty) 25.99 3.11 12.99 2.27 1.63

 

So we see that Agency Ebook is the best deal for the author in paperback, but Hardcover tends to pay more than even agency. This is due to the fact that ebook prices scale up as the formats get more expensive, but not at the same rate that print edition prices increase. There’s been major consumer pushback against fiction ebook prices above $10, and especially over $12-13. Ebooks for titles released in Hardcover would need to be priced at $17.99 for the ebook to earn a higher $ royalty than the Hardcover.

N.B. – These price levels are not universal, nor are the royalty rates. Angry Robot prices all ebooks for individual books at $6.99, and Saga Press’ recent release of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings is priced at $7.99 in ebook, even as the hardcover sells for $27.99.

Price elasticity of demand is a thing, here, and it’s likely that when a book is cheaper than the physical edition, they ebook may sell proportionally more, makin up the per-unit royalty loss with volume sales. Several publishers have tried this approach, and it is the default approach for author-publishers, who tend to set the print $ far higher than the ebook price to show the discount, while usually pricing ebooks at $4.99 and below (sometimes far below). And yet some of these author-publishers have made incredibly good $ selling at those bargain prices, even with a lower author’s share due to vendor agreements (bringing in 35% per sale instead of 70%).

Given that authors tend to receive a better $ royalty for ebook sales when the title’s physical edition is a paperback, how do publishers adjust the sale royalty for a bundled edition?

If the bundling happens with its own edition, how will royalty be calculated – List or Net, and at what rate?

I’d propose that a bundled edition, being sold as a physical book, would probably need to be based off of the print royalty, with a bonus for the ebook, maybe around +5-8% of list.

 

So 8% of list for the MM, but +5% bonus for the ebook, for 13% of list. The reader is effectively paying $2 extra for the ebook, and the author is getting about 2x the royalty as they would on a $7.99 MM.

The result would look like this:

Bundle Edition Price ($) Royalty $
Mass Market + Ebook (13% List) $9.99 $1.30
Trade Paperback + Ebook (15% List) $17.99 $2.70
Hardcover + Ebook (20% List) $29.99 $5.99

 

The royalty gain is higher in Hardcover due to the fact that the promotional price increase of adding $2 is very small in a Hardcover, and publishers margins on a Hardcover are quite good, so I added 8% to the royalty rate instead of 5, especially since Hardcover books are the ones most vulnerable to losing sales to their ebook edition counterpart (due to the larger price difference).

The question then is – would readers pay these rates to get print + ebook as a default? I know I would, as I like to have both editions when I can. you have other thoughts on how to implement a bundling model? Do you want bundled ebooks with physical editions? How would you want them?

Do you have any other thoughts on how to implement a bundling model? Would you want bundled ebooks with physical editions? How would you want them? How much extra is a fair price to get a bundled ebook?

Birthday Giveaways!

Hello, all! Today is my birthday, and to celebrate, I’m hosting three giveaways for copies of my novels.

One giveaway is right here. Just comment on this post between now and Friday the 27th at 5PM EDT with your personal favorite birthday tradition: a food you like to eat, a restaurant you visit, some media you partake of, or so on. One lucky commenter will get a copy of all of my Ree Reyes ebooks so far: Geekomancy, Celebromancy, Attack the Geek.

Next, if you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll be entered to win a set of the Ree Reyes ebooks or a copy of The Younger Gods. Everyone signed up by Friday at noon will be entered to win.

And third – I’ve posted a giveaway on r/fantasy here. I’ll give away two copies of Shield and Crocus as well as a copy of The Younger Gods.

Also, I reserve the right to give away additional prizes because I feel like it. 🙂

Introducing GENRENAUTS

Tor.com has announced their launch roster for The Imprint, including two books by me in a new series!

When I heard the news of Tor.com launching a novella imprint, focusing on digital sales and experimenting with different sales and promotion strategies, as well as offering a higher royalty rate on digital sales, Macmillan had my curiosity.

When they hired my former Angry Robot colleague Lee Harris as the Imprint’s Senior Editor, well…

Django Unchained Gif ' You had my curiosity, but now you have my attention.'

Continue reading

Push Comics Forward

Aside

…and while we’re at it, books, too.

Yesterday, the team at BOOM! Studios, one of the coolest independent comics publishers, announced a new initiative called ‘Comics Forward’

Push Comics Forward

Push Comics Forward has its own site, and a hashtag for discussion on Twitter (#ComicsForward)

And fortunately, BOOM! are not the only comic publisher pushing diversity and expanding their audience. DC has added Gotham Academy and Batgirl, Marvel has Captain MarvelMs. Marvel and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and more. Image has a swathe of comics like this – fewer for all-ages, but many that expand the range of what’s available in comics storytelling.

Some quick historical context: when comes were at their most popular, they encompassed a wide range of genres (especially including romance, a notable missing genre among most larger comics publishers right now, crime, as well as supernatural/fantasy/supers), and the readership was both women and men. It’s only later on that the major publishers narrowed their aesthetic and marketing focus in a way that excluded women and younger audiences. So this intentional expansion of what kinds of stories are being told and what audiences are being invited in is not a question of ‘cheapening’ comics or ‘giving in to feminism’ (which is like saying ‘giving in to equality and compassion’), but more like a return to the breadth of content and readership comics had at its height.

I am excited to see what Push Comics Forward will accomplish, for BOOM! and for comics more broadly.

In both comics and in SFF literature, there’s been ongoing conversations about diversity and representation, to the point that I hope it will prove to be a sea change and not a seasonal or temporary topic. With initiatives like Push Comics Forward, the Destroy Science Fiction anthologies (Women Destroy Science Fiction, Queers Destroy Science Fiction), We Need Diverse Books, and more, I hope that a high standard of diversity and representation will become just another part of what is expected from the comics and SFF literary world. I’ve been doing my best to be part of the equation by writing as diversely as I can, and there are many other writers leading the way in the prose world – Seanan McGuire, Ann Leckie, Kameron Hurley, Max Gladstone, N.K. Jemisin, Saladin Ahmed, and many many more.

Whether these efforts succeed or fail will be decided by creators and consumers both. So let’s Push Comics (and Books) Forward.